|Sydney Lucas and Michael Cerveris as Small Alison and Bruce.|
Photo by Joan Marcus.
Seen on: Wednesday, 4/29/15.
My grade: A. Profoundly moving, excellent ensemble work.
Plot and BackgroundBased on cartoonist Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, Fun Home follows a grown Alison as she backtracks through her memories, writing her memoir, trying to sort through the contradictory memories and emotions attached to her closeted and emotionally abusive father. She struggles with the fact that a few months after she came out as gay in college, her father was hit by a truck - did he kill himself because of her? Because of him? Was it an accident? Alison's memories are aided by Small Alison, the child who knew she was different but not what it meant, and by Middle Alison, the college student, exploding into her sexuality like an epiphany. This show was developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference, the Sundance Theatre Lab, and The Public Theater's Public Lab, before its full production at The Public in 2013-2014. It was nominated for numerous awards, and was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. That production has transferred to Broadway with its cast mostly intact (Emily Skeggs has taken over for Middle Alison, and the two brothers were also recast).
What I Knew BeforehandI've broken my self-imposed rule to not review shows I've already seen, as I like the idea of doing this more as a first impressions from first exposure (which is why I haven't reviewed, say, Hand to God or The Audience). But I never reviewed Fun Home when I saw it at The Public and I should have, and the staging and set are different enough, that I'm allowing myself to defy myself. So what did I know beforehand? I saw the show at The Public (Emily Skeggs had already taken over for Socha by that time), I've listened to the cast album numerous times, and I've read Alison Bechdel's book on which it is based.
Play: What that does mean is that I'm going to focus the majority of my thoughts on cast and design. That being said, I think this is a remarkable show based on a remarkable book (that you should read. have you read it? go read it). The fluidity of it, narratively non-linear and yet absolutely emotionally so, following grown Alison through her memories of childhood, of coming out, of trying, over and over, to understand her father and why he did what he did. The fact that the lyrics are written by a playwright and not a lyricist lend them a more naturalized rhythm, as of dialogue elevated, even if it does result in some predictable or forced rhymes. And perhaps the structure could be stronger, I'm not sure (the elimination of "Al for Short" was a good cut, for the record). But it still feels like an important show, it's still so moving, and so unusual to see such a female-dominated story, to see a young girl sing a love song to a delivery woman. I'm so grateful this show got a Broadway transfer.